JetBlue cut hundreds of flights in January due to omicron price hikes as travel disruptions worsen

JetBlue Airways will cut more than 1,280 flights from Thursday through mid-January in anticipation of more Covid-19 infections among pilots and flight attendants, while cancellations continued to rise across the country.

New York-based JetBlue and other airlines, including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, have canceled more than 8,000 flights since Christmas Eve, according to airline data firm FlightAware, as airlines have been hit by bad weather and an increase in sick calls. of kits.

The turmoil caps another rocky year for travel as airlines have at times struggled to ramp up flights to meet rising demand after a paltry 2020.

More than 1,100 flights were canceled across the country Thursday, according to FlightAware. JetBlue canceled 175 flights, or 17% of its schedule. Meanwhile, United canceled 192 flights, or 9% of its prime schedule, while regional airline SkyWest’s stock was down 198 flights, or 8%. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines canceled 95 flights, 14% of what it planned to fly.

Delta said it canceled 250 of the 4,179 major and regional flights scheduled on Thursday due to weather and the omicron variant of Covid. Plan to cancel between 200 and 300 until the end of the week.

Delta, United and others are offering employees extra pay to pick up shifts to mitigate disruptions.

“Last week has been one of our toughest times during the pandemic,” three JetBlue division leaders wrote Tuesday in a note to employees, which was seen by CNBC. “The explosive growth of Omicron cases in just two days is at a level that no one could reasonably prepare for.”

Planned flight discounts are just under 10% off JetBlue’s daily schedules.

CEO Robin Hayes told CNBC Thursday that the cancellations are aimed at avoiding last-minute changes to passengers.

“The worst kind of cancellation as we all know is cancellation that happens at the airport,” Hayes said.

Sick calls came across the industry from both pilots and flight attendants. The Flight Attendants Association – CWA, which represents about 50,000 cabin crew members in United, Spirit and others, said cases among flight attendants have risen and some airlines are on track to have the highest monthly totals of positive tests since the pandemic began, although a spokeswoman Refused to specify carriers.

The Department of Transportation has indicated that travelers are entitled to refunds if their airline cancels flights or significantly changes the schedule and passengers choose not to take an alternative flight.

“The department monitors the actions of airlines and reviews complaints it receives against them to ensure that consumers’ rights are not being violated,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The ministry will act if airlines fail to comply with applicable law.”

CDC eases isolation guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reduced the recommended isolation time to five days from 10 for individuals who have tested positive for Covid but are not showing symptoms.

JetBlue followed Delta’s line last week in urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halve its isolation guidance for advanced Covid cases to five days, warning of staff shortages and flight disruptions as the omicron was spreading rapidly. Other airlines have followed suit.

JetBlue updated its furlough policies after the CDC’s announcement to allow employees to return to work if they are symptom-free after five days.

JetBlue division heads said in the staff note that they hoped the new guidelines would help bring staff back faster but added, “We know Omicron cases are not yet at their peak in the Northeast (and won’t for at least another week or 2) where they are stationed. The vast majority of our crew members.”

The US Flight Attendants Association, AFA, urged the Center for Disease Control (CDC) not to make the change and said stronger protocols, such as negative testing, are needed for return to work and 10 days of isolation for unvaccinated workers who test positive.

“We believe this is the wrong move for aviation as it accepts bringing infected people back to work or fly as passengers on our planes,” AFC International President Sarah Nelson wrote to airline chief executives on Wednesday. “While our union has neither – nor does – support the updated guidance, we stand ready to work with airlines to implement the new rules in a way that protects workers and provides clarity and confidence to our passengers.”

JetBlue shares fell 1% Thursday, to close at $14.24, a larger percentage drop than other airlines. Southwest Airlines and American, which canceled relatively few on Thursday, added 1.3% to $42.72 and 0.1% to $18.07, respectively.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo